Signs of the Times - February 2013 - (Page 96)

EDITORIALLY SPEAKING “So how often does a business with a world-class product or service fail?” By Wade Swormstedt Location, Locution Where must be buttressed by what and how. I read about aThe Washington Post had acclaimed very interesting social experiment on Facebook. violinist Joshua Bell play six Bach pieces incognito in a D.C. metro station for 45 minutes on a $3.2 million violin. Estimates are 1,100 people walked past him. Only six people stopped for any discernible amount of time. Approximately 20 people gave him a total of $32, but even they barely paused as they kept walking. Two days prior, Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the tickets averaged $100. The purpose, of course, was to show how people are too busy to notice beauty, and the story also explained how many children wanted to stop and listen, but were hustled along by their parents. But that’s not really why. It’s because people didn’t know who the violinist was (and if they did, like me, they wouldn’t know he was famous); they didn’t know the violin was special, and they’re probably not fans of classical music. I recall visiting The Louvre in Paris. Although my qualifications as an art critic are zero, the Mona Lisa wouldn’t even make my Top 10 for items in that particular room. The proximate Wedding at Cannes painting is 20 times more interesting and spectacular. But we’ve been told since childhood that the Mona Lisa is famous. And if we moved in symphony circles, we’d know how famous Joshua Bell is. But, hypothetically, what really prevented people from knowing who Joshua Bell was or that he was scheduled to play? Signs! What would have happened if a banner outside the metro station had announced the place and time of his performance two weeks in advance? What if the nearest EMC said the same? What if transit ads in the metro cars and buses carried the news? Now let’s switch to an even larger city. In New York, in a very-expensive rent district, a 25-story building lies virtually empty above the third floor. Above the Walgreen’s store, probably no other (legal) business transactions occur inside. Nothing is stored, sold or even promoted. Yet the building is appraised at $495 million, according to an article in the December 26, 2012 Wall Street Journal. Why? Because it’s the One Times Square building in Times Square, and the annual rents paid for the signs on its exterior are as follows, according to the WSJ article: News America, Sony, $4 million; Dunkin’ Brands, $3.6 million; Toshiba/ADK, $3.5 million; Anheuser-Busch, $3.4 million; TDK/ADK, $2.3 million; ADK $2.2 million 96 SIGNS OF THE TIMES / FEBRUARY 2013 / and Dow Jones, $1.1 million. Besides being the Crossroads of America for vehicular traffic, Times Square also attracts more than 100 million pedestrians annually. Of course, the fallback argument to virtually every small-town, anti-sign sentiment is “We don’t want to look like Times Square or Las Vegas.” But if their school, law-enforcement or fire-protection facilities or personnel were sorely lacking, they might be inclined to slightly move in that direction. Realtors tell us it’s “location, location, location.” But for signage/advertising, that’s not enough. There must also be a message, and a suitable one. Joshua Bell certainly had a primo location. But a purely audio “message” may be limited to background noise unless readily identified. And, if Taylor Swift had been singing instead, reaction would have been quite different. But, given her publicity, she is recognizable enough to function as a very effective sign by herself. So how often does a business with a world-class product or service fail? How often does this occur because not enough customers – the right customers – knew it existed? The on-premise sign, of course, is not the end-all source for self promotion, in this socialmedia era. But, then again, I doubt if a Facebook posting that Joshua Bell would be playing in a DC metro station would go viral. Scoffers might argue that a metro stop, because it involves to-the-minute arrivals and departures, is, by its very nature, a bustling place in a bustling city, and virtually nothing would make people stop. Yet, how many places in the world are more fast-paced than Times Square? ( Just for fun, try standing in the middle of a Broadway sidewalk, texting or reading a newspaper.) Here’s a final thought: What would have happened if the One Times Square “zipper” sign had announced that Joshua Bell (and explained who he was, and the value of the instrument he would be playing) would offer a free, 45-minute concert at a specified time at the 42nd St. subway stop? Probably something short of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1981 Central Park freebie that attracted 500,000, but still . . . ■

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - February 2013

Signs of the Times - February 2013
ST Update
Technology Update
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Electric
LED Update
Software Update
Technology Review
Technology Review
Sign Museum News
New Products
Dressed to Impress
Uniqlo’s In-store Digital Signage
Pursuing a Different Rout
Word on the Street Signs
Industry News
Advertising Index
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - February 2013